Transcribe your podcast

We get support from Etsy. I love the holidays, and while I've made my peace with the fact that they're going to look a little different this year, I'm still very excited to get my loved ones some incredible gifts from Etsy. Etsy is perfect for sourcing gifts you can't find anywhere else, from creative handmade pieces to one of a kind vintage to things that are personalized just for the people on your list. I found some of my most treasured items on Etsy.


And in a world of mass production, it's nice to give my friends and family things that really hold meaning. My husband and I are proud cat parents and I found a seller that has a gorgeous custom pet portraits I know he'll love and Po are going to look great hanging above our fireplace this holiday season. Shop Etsy to gift like you mean it. Go to Etsy, dotcom gifts to shop meaningful gifts for the people you love this holiday season. That's Etsy et s y dotcom gifts.


Are we potentially looking at medicine's finest hour? I think so. Bracing for a vaccine. The inside story. They notified us of the vaccine efficacy. And I don't think I remember another thing for about twenty minutes. What it means for you. The standard we're going to hold this to is what I give this vaccine to myself for my own family. Hero is in the battle scientists government, but also an army of Americans willing to take an experimental vaccine.


I want people of color to be represented. Will people take it? If the vaccine were available in our community tomorrow, there would be very few people who would line up to get that vaccine. People want to know, do I sign up someplace? Is this going to cost folks anything? I hear people all the time and I say it myself, man, I can't wait to get back to the way it used to be. Are we ever going to get to that place?


What we want is for children to be able to go to school. We want to be able to keep businesses open. We will get there. I think that's the promise of twenty twenty one. A special edition of Dateline Race for a Vaccine. Good evening.


I'm Lester Holt. It is the moment the world has been holding its breath for literally vaccines for covid-19, but getting them into the arms of millions of Americans, maybe as difficult as it was to create them. There are challenges with distribution. Demand and fear are the vaccines is safe and effective, as scientists say.


And when will you be able to get one?


These haunting scenes will stay with us forever before. And the heartbreaking after of covid-19. The pandemic has claimed more than 270000 American lives, a staggering number that will only grow as we head into what experts predict will be a dark winter. The United States is on fire with this virus. The next few months are going to be a nightmare.


But in a season of despair, there's reason to hope vaccines are coming. If the government approves them, people could start getting shots this month. It would be the fastest development of a vaccine in history by far.


Dr. Paul Offit is an infectious disease specialist and director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.


Are we potentially looking at medicines at the pharmaceutical industries finest hour? I think so. I think this is a technological marvel.


I mean, if you asked 100 scientists in the United States in January of 2020, I think zero would have said that that was possible.


It's been a breathtaking and dramatic effort. And it started before anyone had even heard the name covid-19.


This year's New Year's celebration had a familiar feel who had even heard of social distancing back then, soon enough we'd know all about it. But what most people don't know is that back in January, when China reported its first covid death, it also published the virus's genetic sequence. That's when the race for the vaccine began. Dozens of companies around the world jumped in. Moncef Slaoui is a scientist and businessman who has helped develop several vaccines. We were not competing between these vaccines.


We were competing against a virus.


Just two months after the genetic sequence was published, a covert vaccine made with an unproven technology called mmRNA was ready for testing and was injected into a person for the first time.


Is there anything in the back of your mind that bugs you that that what worries you about the pace around this has been fast, certainly faster than any vaccine that's ever been made.


Trials to study the safety and effectiveness of new vaccines are complicated and really expensive. They can take years to complete. But with deaths mounting through the spring, waiting years for trial results did not seem like an option. So behind the scenes, the government came up with a plan to accelerate the process. President Trump announced the initiative on May 15, a day when covid deaths topped 80000.


It's called Operation Warp Speed. That means big and it means fast.


Warp speed got its name from a government scientist as a tribute to Star Trek. The president named Slaoui as its chief adviser. Operation or speed, really was about integrating the efforts of all the other players involved, and nothing could fall between the cracks. It was just just supertight, super aligned, super focused and super motivated.


Companies partnering with Operation Warp Speed have received enormous government subsidies, 12 billion dollars so far.


It has allowed to make these vaccines in record time. The cost of the lockdown was 22 to 23 billion dollars per day. So the return on investment on this 12 billion dollars is doesn't need mathematics.


How well has Operation Warp Speed worked? You have to give credit to an administration that basically took the risk out of it for pharmaceutical companies.


The government helped pay for trials and also manufacturing.


An unprecedented convention busting move to stockpile millions of doses before vaccines are even approved will pay to mass produce this vaccine at risk, meaning not knowing whether the vaccine is safe, not knowing whether it's effective, and if it's neither safe nor effective or both, we will throw hundreds of millions of doses away.


There are also a lot of unsung American heroes who deserve credit in this vaccine effort. The volunteers taking unproven vaccines, knowing they might not work, it might not even be safe. Hundreds of thousands of people literally putting their lives on the line.


I'm a part of the trial. Karla Arnold is one of them.


She volunteered after seeing what was happening in New York City.


It was scary to see that they had those trucks out there. And they had bodies in them and what people of color to be represented. I want women to be represented. I wanted to be for everyone.


Now, a young biotech company called Moderna and pharmaceutical giant Pfizer have applied for government approval to use their vaccines, a rare piece of good news during a pandemic that has felt like a slow, painful marathon.


Our objective is to now be able to immunize the totality of the US population by the middle of 2021.


That goal is realistic, but there will be challenges along the way. Just today, we learned because of temporary supply chain problems, Pfizer had to lower its estimate of how many doses it can deliver this month. Next, how were the vaccines developed so fast, you'll hear the inside story from the people in charge.


These three company leaders are in the biggest race of our time charging into the history books to make a covid vaccine. We brought these executives together for the first time to talk about what they've accomplished. Dr. Stephen Hogue, president of Moderna, the biotech upstart Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer. Both Pfizer and Moderna have broken speed records to come up with new vaccines. And Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson and Johnson, which is close behind. Do you consider yourself revolutionaries?


Have you created a revolution in how this this country is able to create vaccines? Stephen, you want to start?


Well, I think we've changed the game pretty dramatically. How about you, Albert? You ready to call this a revolution yet? There are a lot of lessons learned during this pandemic, the power of science, but also the power of the private sector. Alex, how about you?


We've never done anything at this scale. Hopefully this becomes a template before covid.


All three companies have a promising vaccine technology under the hood. In fact, last fall, Moderna was planning to test how quickly it could make a vaccine using that MRSA technology. Then the virus hit. Suddenly it was all systems go for real. This is now a live fire exercise. There's got to be a practice run. And that allowed us to get going really quickly, which was a good thing because days later, Dr. Anthony Fauci put Moderna and it's unproven technology on the spot.


Dr. Fauci gave an interview where he said, we're going to have this in a phase one trial within one hundred days and all of a sudden it became very real. We're now on a clock publicly, whereas before it was something we thought, hey, we're going to give it our best shot. I'm assuming you're holding your breath during this entire process, though, maybe not breathing at all. That's right. For Moderna, we had to bet the farm were relatively small, less well known company.


We had to go all in knowing that if if we got to the phase three results and we just got unlucky, that was going to be a make or break existential moment. There wasn't there was no coming back from that drug giant.


Pfizer, partnering with a German biotech company, went with the same MRSA technology as tiny Moderna. That technology uses a bit of the virus genetic code to produce an immune response.


Albert, talk about the very beginning of your approach and how you guys decided to go the direction you did.


Actually just follow the recommendations of our scientists and then recommended that mRNA is the way to go for multiple reasons, including the speed with which you can develop.


Fizer turned down funding from Operation Warp Speed, risking two billion dollars of its own money. Johnson and Johnson and Moderna, on the other hand, took the government money, and teams of scientists worked relentlessly to protect the world from the virus, all the while trying to protect themselves.


How his covid affected your ability to produce the vaccine and to really go about your research.


I knew that we need to maintain our manufacturing facilities open while protecting the safety of our people. And Stephen has covered cost you time in terms of production. The short answer is yes.


You know, we have people getting sick, sometimes very sick. We need to do the best we can to protect them.


In addition to trying to help save the world. It's also very personal.


Alex Gorski lost his longtime head of security to covid.


And so the sense of mission, it's incredibly inspirational to each and every one of us.


Years were compressed into months during this race as the pandemic raged and the world waited desperately. We felt the pressure of the billions of people in this world and the millions of businesses in this world and the hundreds of governments in this world because they were all investing their hope in this industry to find the solution.


That was pressure enough. President Trump was applying pressure of his own, and it was happening in the heat of an election campaign.


So we're going to have a vaccine very soon, maybe even before a very special day. You know what I'm talking about? Finally, in early September.


Things came to a head. These executives decided to take a public stand. Albert and I had a chance to speak on the phone.


And based upon the political atmosphere that we were in, both of us started working the phones that weekend and we were able to get our colleagues on board.


In the end, nine vaccine makers issued a public statement saying science would dictate the timeline of any vaccine.


We know that we have got to continue to win the trust, the confidence of the American public.


Clinical trials continued through the fall, with everyone hoping for the. Effective vaccine, tempering their expectations. What were you internally aiming for as a measure of success? I thought eighty, eighty five percent would have felt like a home run.


What I was hoping was something on the 70s, they both did way better than that.


Pfizer and Moderna stunned us all with vaccines that are at or near an efficacy rate of 95 percent.


Albert, can you describe what that moment was when you found out that you had apparently a successful vaccine? Oh, it's an incredible moment. The next day when I went home with my wife and kids and I sat in the couch with a glass of wine. I realized, what does this mean for the world? And Stephen, could you describe that moment they notified us of the vaccine efficacy and I don't think I remember another thing for about 20 minutes, there was this overwhelming sense of relief.


Remember, all three of these companies started making vaccines months ago, long before they had any trial results in this race. The cart was set before the horse deliberately.


It was something that we felt we had to do because if we waited, there would be no way that we would be in a position to have adequate capacity to have an adequate number of vaccines to really make a difference.


But making the vaccines is only half the job. Getting them into people's arms may be the hardest part of all. That's next.


Life can get so busy with kids, work, you name it, that it can feel like you never get to spend quality time with your family and friends. Our sponsor, Hunter Killer, is a murder mystery subscription box. That's a new way to do game night. You can have fun and work together without even having to leave the house. Hunter Killer feels like an escape room where you are the main character. Each storyline they do is made up of six boxes that get shipped straight to your door and each box is full of realistic evidence, maps, police reports and more to provide a suspenseful and immersive experience.


The storyline that my friends and I have been working on together over video chat has to do with a cold case murder at an old theater. It's our job to help the owner of the theater solve the murder. Working through this thing is a multimedia experience. There are physical clues like old letters, a play program starring our suspects, even a real metal cufflink plus archives to comb through online. Another thing I love, part of the proceeds for every box goes to the Cold Case Foundation, an organization that is dedicated to helping with real life cold cases.


Right now, just for our listeners, you can go to Hunter Killer Dotcom slash Dateline and use promo code dateline at checkout for 20 percent off your first box. That's Hunter killer dot com slash Dateline for twenty percent off. And to show support for our podcast, Hunter Killer Dotcom Slash Dateline.


The holidays can be a tough time for a lot of people, especially now that many of us are more isolated than ever. If you need someone to talk to you, I can't recommend our sponsor. Better help. Enough, better help. Is professional counseling done securely online? You can log into your account any time. Send a message to your counselor and you'll get timely and thoughtful responses. Sometimes it can be hard to get out of the house, only to sit in an uncomfortable waiting room.


And it may not even be possible in many areas. Right now, with better help, you'll be able to schedule weekly video or phone sessions from the comfort of your home. They also know that you may not click with someone right away and that's OK. Better help makes it easy and free to change counselors if you need to. To get ten percent off your first month visit, better help Dotcom DL NBC join the over one million people who have taken charge of their mental health with the help of an experienced professional at better help dotcom DL.


NBC Better Help Dotcom Deal NBC. Once the covid-19 vaccines have been approved, the big question will be how do they get to the people who need them? It starts with a military handling the massive logistics, helping vaccine companies get manufacturing equipment and software. But the actual distribution will fall to the private sector, according to General Gustaaf Paraná, chief operating officer for Operation Warp Speed. We knew if we brought Pfizer, Maidana, McKesson, UPS, FedEx, CVS, Walgreens and hundreds of others together that we would come up with the best solutions.


But Dr. Paul Offit says even the private sector will be scrambling to make this work. I think a lot of people may look at some of the problems, many of the big problems we've had with testing and thinking, wow, you take that same disorganization and apply it to vaccine distribution and you've got a problem.


It was hard enough for us to just make masks and distribute them, which is a much easier thing to do than what we're about to do with vaccines.


Dr. Endue, Lou, will be rolling out the vaccine for our W.J. Barnabus health, one of the largest hospital systems in New Jersey.


I first want to get a sense of the scale of what we're talking about, New Jersey alone, potentially how many million people we need to vaccinate.


If we're thinking about vaccinating New Jersey, we're looking at over nine million people. It's a large number in a very small state.


Have you ever approached anything along that scale?


No. The last time the United States did anything close to this scale was in the 1950s when polio was the scourge that gripped America at times on the first to face the soft vaccine needle.


Millions of doses of vaccine had to get to children in every part of the country, but distribution of the covid vaccines, particularly Pfizer's, will be even more difficult.


Pfizer's vaccine has to be shipped and stored at minus 20 to minus 80 degrees centigrade, which is something we have no experience with in the United States.


And it has to be kept of those arctic temperatures through the entire shipping process. One break in that cold chain and precious vaccine may become ineffective. Let's start with the beginning of the chain, most vaccines are shipped in glass vials. Here is what can happen in extreme cold. At Corning Glass Company's research facility in western New York, engineers have come up with a solution valor. Glass Corning engineers say Valla Glass has reduced breakage by 99 percent.


So perhaps that's a solution to one problem. But there's another issue keeping that vaccine cold on the road. Pfizer's vaccine will be shipped in boxes filled with dry ice.


They're going to need a lot of dry ice to ship this vaccine. John Natuzzi, president of the new Toussie Ice Company in Queens, New York, says there's a shortage. One reason more Americans are ordering their food online, much of it packed in dry ice.


We service one of the city's largest online food grocers. They're using it probably around 20 times a day, if not more. So demand is up. But there's another problem the carbon dioxide needed to make dry ice is in short supply. Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines will not require dry ice for shipping. Their vaccines can be transported in the same cold chain that delivers our frozen groceries like ice cream. Once the vaccines are packaged, it will be up to those big shipping companies like McKesson, UPS and FedEx to get the vaccine quickly and safely out to the state health departments.


United Airlines has already flown several shipments of Pfizer's vaccine, getting them in position so they're ready to send out if the FDA approves the vaccine for emergency use. Some states already have super cold freezers and the wherewithal to administer the vaccine, but some states do not. They're going to need help.


Is the administration going to be willing to spend the money to allow states to do what we need to do to set up a system to to give this vaccine so we can figure that out?


Some private hospital systems aren't counting on their states to store their vaccine north. Well, health in New York, for instance, has bought its own freezers.


We thought it was very important to get these type of freezers in place. Dr. Anissa's Stepha's North Wales chief pharmacy officer says the vaccine can be safely stored here for up to six months. But once the vials are thawed, it's a tight timeline.


You have six hours at room temperature to administer what is in that vial. These are coming as multi dose files that have five doses in each one.


So you're going to have to line people up and make sure you're getting vaccination after vaccination, after vaccination, or else those vaccines are going to be bad. That's a challenge. And all of this could happen very soon, possibly within the next two weeks when the first vaccine may be approved by the FDA. So this could happen very quickly. You could get the call that it's shipping in two days. Get ready. Absolutely.


Absolutely. And I liken the analogy to on December 14th, you're having this really big dinner party, but you don't know exactly how many guests you're having. You don't know what time they're arriving and you don't really know what's on the menu. So we're putting all of those contingency plans in place. So we will be ready to go.


But will people be ready to take it? That's next. And later, everything you need to know when you are ready to take it. We've developed covid vaccines in record time, we're harnessing the power of government and corporations to deliver it to millions.


But Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith, a co-chair of President elect Biden's covid task force, says the biggest challenge is yet to come, persuading those whose lives are on the line to get in line for the shot.


In some of our hardest hit communities, we know that there is quite a degree of vaccine hesitance and caution.


The numbers are startling. According to recent polls, almost half of all Americans say they will not get the covid vaccine. Among them, a surprising 36 percent of all frontline nurses and seven states so far are saying not so fast.


Some states have expressed the plan to take their own reviews of these vaccines before accepting them at face value. Do you blame them?


Yeah, you know, I think that we have a significant challenge right now in our country because we've walked away from from science.


This isn't going to work unless enough of us buy in and roll up our sleeves and take the shot.


You know, I think what we have to do is find out what questions people have. At the same time, we have to acknowledge that trust has decayed between Americans and the federal government and it will take work to rebuild and restore that confidence.


Dr. Fauci and his colleagues have hit the airwaves to assure the public the vaccines will not be approved unless they're safe.


I will take the vaccine. But Joe Smyser, the CEO of Public Good Projects, or PGP nonprofit that specializes in promoting public health initiatives, says that may not be enough.


This old model of public health officials standing up in front of an American flag telling you that you should trust vaccines because they say so. That's that's not where the world is anymore.


The real battle for the public's trust, says Smyser, takes place on the Internet. According to NPR's own analysis and time, vaccine crusaders have almost doubled their posts since March, pedaling covid vaccine myths and wild conspiracies that are shared millions of times a day online. If you're not having someone reinforce the truth every single day, then that's that's a vacuum. Every vacuum gets filled and we're allowing it to be filled with with misinformation.


So Smyers organization decided to fight fire with fire. This is their online emergency center in San Diego. Here, computers powered by artificial intelligence are in hot pursuit of covid vaccine lies 24/7. Recently, they zeroed in on a widely debunked conspiracy theory that the vaccines will be used to implant microchips in millions of people so the government could track them.


And it's being spread by fake news websites, by leaders of the anti vaccination movement. They're talking about it again. So we saw this big spike.


Data scientists sprang into action alerting a group of media specialists in Atlanta who crafted a counter message within hours.


This is one of the three things that we made and says microchips not included. Then it was up to the micro influencers, a hand-picked group with millions of followers in areas where people are reluctant to get vaccinated.


You know, like Beyonce is not going to be sharing our misinformation outbreak alert. These are basically like a lot of little Beyonce people who are Beyonce where they live.


We have to do that on all those who are suffering among us. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this grassroots campaign is decidedly less high tech, but as pivotal, led by Father Paul Abernathy, volunteers from a group called the Neighborhood Resilience Project went door to door and face to face.


Black residents in this inner city neighborhood are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized or die of covid than white people. And yet I believe that if the vaccine were available in our community tomorrow, that there would be very few people who would line up to get that vaccine.


In fact, right now, according to an extensive Washington Post survey, less than a third of all African-Americans nationwide trust that covid vaccines will be safe or shield them from the virus.


Hi, how are you doing? We are Kahuku, our neighbors, about the vaccine that Pfizer has out. And we want to know your opinion on it. Why? As far as I'm concerned, it could be given, as the vaccine is called.


One of the volunteers is Carla Arnold, who, as you may remember, is a proud participant in the Moderna vaccine trials.


But when she tells people I already had my second inoculation, the response, she says, usually turns from skepticism to disbelief.


Are you crazy?


Did you really let them shoot you with something that you don't know what it is or if it's going to help? You know, what they have always done to black people or brown people?


The mistrust runs deep here. And unlike the theories of the anti vaccine as it is rooted in historical fact, there have been several notorious medical experiments on people of color in the U.S. most infamous the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which government scientists lie to hundreds of black sharecroppers who had the disease and deliberately left them untreated for 40 years so they could study its effects.


We need to bear witness to that and understand that there is a deeper pain that fuels that mistrust. And in fact, these experiences have worked their way into the narrative, the broader narrative of communities, the broader narrative of families, which certainly impacts the perspective of individuals.


I'm trusting them, to be honest, and I'm trying to let people know that fear shouldn't always rule your actions. Sometimes you have to trust.


But can we trust vaccines that came about so fast we'll ask the people who made them.


Wonderings, even the rich, gives you a behind the scenes look at some of the most infamous family dynasties in modern history in their new season, the house of Versace, three siblings, Gianni, Donatella and Santo, build one of the greatest fashion labels the world has ever seen. But after the brutal murder of Gianni Versace, the fate of his global fashion empire was left up in the air with his killer on the loose and a manhunt underway. He was Donatella who took on the task of rebuilding the brand with the weight of the fashion house, a success placed squarely on her shoulders, Donatella faced scrutiny from all sides, fueling a drug addiction and casting doubt on her ability to succeed.


To explore the complexities of one of the most famous family businesses, listen to Wonderings Season of Even the Rich on Apple podcasts. Spotify or the Wonder App. The speedy development of the vaccines has raised hopes, but also questions, questions we brought up in our conversation with company leaders, Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, and Stephen Hoague, president of Moderna.


We keep hearing that the typical vaccine takes maybe a decade long to develop. You've done it in a year, so we can't help wonder what ingredient was taken out. The quality standard we've held ourselves to was thirty thousand person placebo controlled trials. That really is the gold standard. We've still met that bar, even though we've moved quickly. What's really the ingredient that's been taking out, taken out is some of the financial and business caution that normally slows the development of drugs.


Albert, have any corners been cut for sake of time? No, absolutely not. As Stephen said, we're on a study of thirty thousand people. Forty four in our case, it is the golden standard, as you said, and that happened exactly as what happened with any other vaccine.


Alex Gorsky, CEO of Johnson and Johnson, agrees his company is still conducting its Phase three clinical trial.


We want to ensure the American public that accelerating should not be confused with cutting corners because we are absolutely following the regulatory guidelines that would be expected last month.


That monumental effort paid off.


Pfizer and Moderna had collected the data required from their clinical trials, their two months of safety data that have been put out there by both of your companies. Is that enough for most vaccines?


You will see adverse events or safety issues arise really within the first five, six weeks after vaccination. So two months allows you to be sure as you can be. And the real threat to life and health that covid faces far outweighs any remaining very small risk. We think that over the coming year we'd see any concerns arise.


But there is still so much we don't know about these new vaccines. We don't know how long these vaccines will protect this one. We'll need a follow up certainly when we're seeing efficacy. Ninety four. Ninety five percent. There's great reasons for hope that these vaccines are going to be very effective and beat back the virus. But there's a chance that a year from now, three years from now, we'll see that people need a booster not dissimilar to what we see with other vaccines.


And then what about the question of of even though I've I've had the protection, am I still able to transmit it to other people? I think this is something that needs to be examined. We are not certain about that. Right. Not with what we know.


The clinical trials are still under way and many of these questions will be answered. But that brings up another issue. Thousands of trial volunteers didn't get the real vaccine, given the fact that you've got a number of volunteers who receive placebos at this point, given your success, do you intend to give them the actual vaccine? It is a moral and ethical dilemma and obligation. I think that we have to these people, we should find their way so sooner rather than later give to all the placebo participants of the vaccine.


There's one more hurdle.


The FDA still has to decide if the new vaccines are safe. Next week, an advisory committee will discuss whether to recommend emergency use. Authorization for Pfizer's vaccine modernity's turn comes later this month. Dr. Paul Offit is on that committee.


What is an advisory meeting look like when you're reviewing a vaccine?


We sort of have a million questions to make sure that we understand exactly what the safety issues aren't, exactly what the efficacy issues are. Is it effective in people over 65? Is it equally effective among racial groups, ethnic groups? Is it effective in people who have various medical conditions?


The stakes couldn't be higher. The standard we're going to hold this to is what I give this vaccine to myself or my own family.


And if the answer to that question is I'm not sure, then we're not going to move forward.


This week, the United Kingdom became the first country to approve Pfizer's vaccine for emergency use, clearing the way for mass vaccinations. They're both Pfizer and Moderna are confident they'll win approval in the US.


And if you are given approval, how fast will things snap into motion? How fast will the distribution begin?


We are aiming ours after the approval to be able to distribute. And once approval comes, how quickly does medicine spring into action and begin shipping the product?


So, like the others, we're partnered with General Purna and his team at Operation Warp Speed. I've been told they want trucks rolling within hours, if not a day. Coming up next, what you need to know. If the FDA gives the thumbs up to Pfizer's vaccine next week, a first approved shots could be administered just nine days from now. With modernities vaccine hot on its heels, these vaccines have the possibility of ending this pandemic.


But the first batch of Phizer doses will only be enough for just over three million people, perhaps ramping up with Madonna's vaccine for some 50 million people by the end of January. So it falls to Dr. Jose Romero. I'm gaveling the meeting to order, chairing an emergency meeting of the CDC's vaccine advisory group this week to lay out the sequence of who gets vaccinated. Those states can tweak the order according to their needs.


In the first tier of individuals, it will be health care providers.


Number one, he means not just doctors and nurses treating covid, but also those assisting in close proximity. There are more than 20 million health care workers nationwide.


So the interplay now with Dr. Marcella Nunez Smith is advising President elect Biden.


From what you know right now, it is the order of distribution makes sense.


I think it's well appreciated and understood that those who are on the front lines risking themselves for us, you know, can be at the front of the line.


Also, among those first to get a vaccine will be those living or working in long term care facilities like nursing homes.


Then we would come to essential personnel who exactly are deemed essential. Personnel will vary from state to state, but vaccination guidelines will be equitable, says Dr. Romero, who was also health secretary in Arkansas. If we look at, for example, poultry plants, which are very significant in our state meat processing plants, those plants have a significant number of underrepresented minorities in those occupations. We are getting the vaccine to those individuals. We made them one of the that the tier one populations to receive it.


Also likely to be close to the front of the line are those over age 65 with underlying conditions identified by state health departments.


The CDC estimates about 100 million Americans have conditions that put them at risk for covid complications so it could take months before vaccines are available to the broader population. Possibly enough vaccine would be available to distribute to the general public sometime middle of next year. We asked Dr. Romero and Dr. Endue, Lou, some of the key questions you are probably asking about covid shots. People want to know, do I sign up someplace? How do I know when it's my turn?


We'll be hearing messaging from our Department of Health, from our governors, television, radio, press, social media, anything that we have at our disposal to transmit this to the public will be used so people won't exactly sign up, but will be told when and where they can get a shot and should be able to make an appointment without having to wait. They could potentially get it in their retail pharmacies. They might go to their primary care physicians office.


They might go to an urgent care clinic. They could potentially go to a type of covid vaccine clinic. They should be able to get a vaccine very, very similar to the flu vaccine.


But while Johnson and Johnson's covid shot is similar to the flu vaccine needing just one dose, Fyssas and Modernities need to well, I as a consumer have a choice and say no.


I think I want the Johnson and Johnson. No, no, no. Give me the Pfizer.


It really depends on supply. So you may not have a choice in the beginning.


Are you worried about people getting the first and then not showing up a month later for the second? Absolutely.


It will be tricky to ensure that if you are getting the first dose of Pfizer that you get it on day one and then you return on day 21. It's critical if you are receiving medicine as a vaccine, then you need to come back. On day 28, there will be a calendar link pushed out to say you must schedule your second dose right now.


And states will also keep a tally of who's been vaccinated. Everybody that is vaccinated in our state will be logged into a registry and will be able to keep track of who's gotten what vaccine and when. Right now, the covid vaccines are only for people over 18.


I'd like to talk about what the plan is for vaccinating children.


Well, right now we don't have any information on giving these vaccines to children.


While trials are underway on teens and tweens, younger children and infants won't get a shot until there's more data. But what many Americans are asking in our economically challenged times is how much they're going to have to lay out for a shot.


Is this going to cost folks anything or will this be free of charge?


The covid vaccine will be free of charge to the American public. That's because taxpayers are picking up the bill. So after you get vaccinated, what then? Once I get my second shot, can I wear my mask away?


You know, I think about this a lot because we have to continue to practice the CDC recommendations of wearing a mask.


This vaccine, if it works as we think it's going to work, will protect you. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you can't have a low level infection and spread the virus.


But as more and more people are vaccinated, health care experts believe the overwhelming number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths will come down. I keep wondering, how do we know when this is over?


You're alluding to potentially herd immunity, right? Some in New Jersey. I know our Department of Health is saying that we would like 70 percent of our state vaccinated.


That's a large number. It could take a while. It could potentially take till the end of the year. That's the end of 2021. But right now, doctors say we're in for some tough times. You are now heading into drier, cooler, less humid climates. This is the time when this kind of virus thrives.


We have to get through right now what is a very, very dark winter. So I think it is important for us not to get complacent and we have to double down and commit always to still wear our mask and stay socially distanced.


You know, I hear people all the time and I say it myself, man, I can't wait to we can get back to the way it used to be. Are we ever going to get to that place?


You know, what we want is for children to be able to go to school. We want to be able to keep businesses open. I'm feeling very confident that, you know, we will get to a place where, you know, the things that we hold dear, we're able to do. I think that's the promise of 2021 that we will get there. What months ago was a distant ray of hope in an ocean of despair is almost here. It appears science has delivered a way out of this pandemic, a way to stop the dying, a way to help us find our way back to that normalcy we all crave.


Not all of our questions can be answered yet. The time is here for each of us to now decide, will we roll up our sleeves and take the next step? That's all for now. I'm Lester Holt. Thanks for joining us.